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Blog: A banner night in Pittsburgh

by Adam Kimelman

Geno, Sid and the banner
10.02.09 / 7:50 PM ET

Evgeni Malkin gets the umpteenth huge ovation of the night. "Geno" chants are echoing throughout the place.

And then comes Sid the Kid. Stoic look on his face, but the guy's got to be on Cloud 9.

The players are gathering around the table of trophies, and up goes the banner -- 2008-09 STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS.

The players seem awestruck by the thing and are tapping their sticks in salute as the banner rises slowly to the roof of Mellon Arena. It's on the opposite side of ice from the banners for the 1991 and 1992 championships, giving it a feel of a new era and a new team. The first two titles were Mario's; this banner is for this new group.

The lights are back on and the Pens are skating around while the trophies are taken off and the red carpet is rolled up. The Rangers are hitting the ice, skating through an obstacle course. Now it's time to play.

Talbot in the house
10.02.09 / 7:45 PM ET

Max Talbot won't be playing for a while, but the guy is a rock star in Pittsburgh -- in full gear, all padded up, stick in hand. The people around here absolutely love the guy. And having spent time around him, there's nothing not to love about the guy. You can see his smile from the upper ring of the arena where the media sits.

Tough act for Ruslan Fedotenko and Craig Adams to follow -- but hey, everybody loves Max.

Marc-Andre Fleury might never get booed again. "Fleury" chants are coming down like the rain outside the building.

Trophy collection
10.02.09 / 7:40 PM ET

"How was your summer?" was the greeting from Penguins TV host Paul Steigerwald.

There's a beautiful trophy case just inside the Penguins' blue line -- the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Prince of Wales Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy ... and of course, the Stanley Cup.

Mario Lemieux was introduced, to a rousing applause, along with co-owner Ron Burkle. They walked out on a red carpet. I'm sure people are happy to see him, too.

More club officials, with a nice ovation for GM Ray Shero. Very deserving as the architect of the club.

Dan Bylsma might never pay for a meal again. The fans love the guy.

At the other end of the ice, out of the Zamboni chute, here come the players. Starting with ... Brent Johnson? Nice Pittsburgh debut for the new backup goaltender. Alex Goligoski and Mark Eaton are next, followed by Pascal Dupuis. The players are lining up at center ice.

Another loud ovation, this time for Jordan Staal. And then, after Chris Bourque, another one for Bill Guerin and then Chris Kunitz. I'll get my earplugs ready for the final two players.

Geno takes over and Fleury saves the day
10.02.09 / 7:35 PM ET

The third-round series was a coming-out party for all of Evgeni Malkin's skills, and his play is what led the Pens to a sweep of Carolina and on to the Stanley Cup Final.

The fans are loving the chance to re-live all the great memories from last season's run, all the way to Game 7 in Detroit. Max Talbot's two goals, Fleury's remarkable post-to-post save on Nick Lidstrom, and then the real fun began. Crosby lifting the Cup is met with a roof-jarring cheer.

Wow, the curtains just dropped, and there's Lord Stanley, in the spotlight at center ice. Great video, great presentation, and the fans are loving it.

Let the celebration begin
10.02.09 / 7:30 PM ET

They just dropped 75-foot white screens from the top of the scoreboard to the ice and are showing highlights from last season's Cup on them, starting with a February loss in Toronto that dropped them to 10th in the standings and the run of success that led them on a rocket-like climb up the standings.

When coach Dan Bylsma is shown on the screen, he receives deafening cheers, matched only by the boos when the Pens' first-round playoff foes, the Flyers, are shown.

Max Talbot's losing effort in a Game 6 fight in Philadelphia, and subsequent finger to the lips shushing the Philadelphia crowd, also receive a big ovation.

Next come loud boos for Alex Ovechkin and the historic second-round series against the Caps.

The video is fantastic. More highlights to come.

Words from the Commissioner
10.02.09 / 6:20 PM ET

Commissioner Gary Bettman is here in Pittsburgh for the ceremony tonight, and spent about 15 minutes talking to the media. He said he took a guided tour of the new Consol Energy Center, which is on schedule to open next season, and compared the renaissance of hockey in Pittsburgh over the last few years to what could happen in any of the 30 markets -- especially Phoenix.

He said the Penguins' growth from bankruptcy to Stanley Cup champion is the reason he and the League fights so hard to make all 30 franchises viable in their current markets. He admitted it would take a lot of work to get Phoenix on track, but said it's worth the effort.

The Commissioner also was asked what he would miss most about Mellon Arena. His answer? The chicken fingers. I'll have more of what the Commissioner talked about in an upcoming story on, so stay tuned.

Getting warmed up
10.02.09 / 3:35 PM ET

Not even a persistent, mildly soaking rain is keeping a few hearty souls from camping out on the front lawn of Mellon Arena. They're watching interviews and highlights of all the celebrations from the Stanley Cup championship.

It may feel more like Steelers weather, but there's definitely a buzz around the building already.

Hopefully the rain lets up a bit and more people can enjoy some of the outdoor activities that are planned for today.

Touchdown, Pittsburgh
10.2.09 / 10:45 AM ET is on the ground in Pittsburgh to bring you all the highlights from what should be one of the more memorable nights in the town's storied sports history.

The raising of the third Stanley Cup banner in club history and one final celebration of June's title heroics also are a fine way to start the farewell season of Mellon Arena. The old Igloo will host its final hockey games sometime this spring. A sparkling new Consel Energy Center will open for business this time next year.

Personally I'm excited to see how far they've come with the new building since the last time I was there, which was Game 6 of the second-round series against Washington.

Well, I'm going to grab some food and start savoring the flavor of a great sports town. But keep checking back for all the news.

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